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Buying Argentina


Where can you find a 360 view that is beautiful? The National Park system of the USA is very beautiful, but the crush of people is so heavy, you feel like you are always in a crowd. Yosemite becomes one of the largest ‘urban’ centers of California during the summer. Yellowstone is frequently bumper-to-bumper. It is hard to get a sense of nature, anywhere. Fear of terrorism has kept America home and the vacation spots are showing wear. Who gets to stand on the North Rim of the Grand Canyon alone? Even in the so-called ‘wilderness’ areas you will see fellow hikers everyday. If your joy is the desert, you can find some isolation, but if you love Alpine mountain scenic wonders; you have to share (and your share may be small).

Bariloche view

The population of Argentina will probably never compete with California and it is the 8th largest country in the world. During the highest point in “High” season here in San Carlos de Bariloche we drove through miles of tourist-empty scenic Park land. Villa la Angostura on the opposite side of the lake from Bariloche is a very ‘posh’ “vacation destination”. During the one hour drive from Bariloche to the la Angostura golf course (slowed by frequent outbreaks of photography) we encountered one car.

The northern section of Patagonia is the Lake District. Glacier carved lakes are scattered throughout the Andes mountains on Argentina’s frontier with Chile. The scenic splendor has brought immigrants from all over the continent and the globe. There is still a feeling of under-population. Maybe the threat of the Patagonia winters has frightened away the crowds.  San Carlos de Bariloche is perched above the lovely Nahuel Huapi Lake with brazos(arms) stretching over 60 miles. There are several impressive mountains; Tronador with three peaks (shared with Chile as the border runs through the mountain), and Cerro Catedral, with the Ski Resort, Cerro Lopez with a wide snow covered “saddle” and Capilla (the Chapel because the top of the peak resembles one). There is more than just beauty here. The Chilean Army lost a group of trainees in the snows of June and may not find the last of them until spring.

That fearful image doesn’t reach down to Bariloche, which remains mostly snow free. In the heart of winter, July, some of us were walking in shirt sleeves

 El Bolson a couple of hours south doesn’t have the downtown lake but turn to the west and the massive wall of rock rises thousands of feet above you. Mountains completely encircle the town but the ‘wall’ draws your eye and you feel like an ant. Most people just gasp as the clouds pull back and you see the true height of the peaks. The land is lower here, about 500 meters lower than Bariloche, and protected from the famous Patagonia winds. There is a micro climate that encourages the production of fruit, vegetables and hops. A few minutes drive south of Bolson and across the Rio Negro Province border, and into Chubut Province, there is Lago Puelo spread before an array of snowy peaks. From  Lago Puelo north to Bariloche then on to Villa la Angostura and finally to San Martin de Los Andes, this is my Paradise. When the crowds come, the exits are everywhere. There is the Lake or you can follow as pavement turns to gravel, then to dirt.  Buildings begin to disappear among the trees. Almost everywhere around you is a National or local park, people smile as they pass you, they know where you are going, you just need a moment away from civilized life, to refresh yourself.

I climbed off the bus in Traful, on the way to San Martin from Bariloche, and even though the driver said “cinco minutos. No mas” I walked to the Traful river less than a hundred yards away. (Imagine gorgeous riverfront property, with an incredible view, resort area written all over it, being used as a bus/gas station) A fellow passenger walked with me and as I dipped the ice cold water he said up the river around the bend a short way was Ted Turners Ranch. With the Traful running down my face and neck I realized how close to God I had come.

I watch the daily reports of temperature and wind. San Martin de Los Andes is about five degrees warmer than Bariloche. El Bolson has almost no wind and varies from a little warmer to a little cooler. Bolson is further south, which should equal cooler but is so much lower than Bariloche it is often a bit warmer. You just may need Ted Turner money to buy a home in Villa la Angostura (pronounced Vee-zha long-is-tour-ah) although temperatures and wind seem the same as Bariloche.

The Lake country of Argentina is dominated by the mix of truly awesome mountains, and intensely beautiful lakes. Sprinkle in a few graceful volcanoes and you have a wild masterpiece outside your windows. No matter which side of which lake you find yourself, the colors will surprise you. The sky is childhood-blue and the water is so clear you can easily pick out stones on the bottom even from the top of the surrounding ridges. The tap water is safe and drinkable. I am told-promised actually-that you can drink directly from lakes and rivers. I haven’t, yet. I keep thinking about Nahuelito the occasionally seen Loch Ness type Lake Monster, hiding in giant Nahuel Huapi Lake. I keep wondering what he is doing out there, in the water. Is he alone?

Patagonia is huge but the population is still small. Bariloche has everything; from discos to tango if you are young at heart (or just single), world class skiing (June, July & August) a Casino and the stunning views of lake or mountains. Mitre street will provide enough shopping for recreational to ‘major league’ shoppers. The chocolates, liquers, and jams are revered all over, South America and Europe. Chocolates are made on site and the aromas floating out on the street are hypnotic. People follow their noses to the door and are offered a sample converting ‘passer-by’s’ into customers. Americans with no genetic resistance to dulce de leche (milk caramel) taste this treat covered in chocolate and feel like they have discovered one of the elements of life. I don’t eat candy and I was converted. The ice cream is so good people are eating it in the morning on cold days.

Real Estate bargains are more likely to be found in the Bariloche area (150,000 pop.) or El Bolson (30,000??) than in San Martin (@30,000pop.) or Villa la Angostura.

So how do you make this incredible place your home? How do you deal with the problems people have in the real world? Immigracion is not difficult, if you are fluent, or if you have someone help you with the Castellano Spanish terms, so that you understand what is necessary. Info (in Spanish) is available at http://www.migraciones.gov.ar/ .
Health insurance called is available at local Hospitals and clinics. You need to make sure, if you have a special condition where the best care is available because this type of insurance doesn’t travel. You have to be treated at the place you pay your payments. That being said if your leg falls off they are responsible for sticking it back on with no extra payments. There is a national plan that actually covers travelers in Chile, Brazil, Uruguay, Paraguay, as well as Argentina. Prescription drugs are NOT covered, but are a fraction of USA prices. Some “experimental” drugs (like tamoxifen or irumidex) are about the same as USA prices. My prescriptions were reduced by over 50%.

Bariloche has homes from $35,000usd and up. Prices were originally one peso equals one usdollar, so your buying power is trebled. A decent meal at “Rock Chicken” on Palacios St. can be had for $2 or 3 usd including a soda. An incredible sirloin feast at “El Boliche de Alberto” with wine and dessert is $10usd. If you go to Alberto’s remember to split salads and potatoes. Grocery stores have a good selection of foods and questions were answered with a smile.

Housing is going to cost you a bit more in San Martin de Los Andes with little or no housing below $85,000usd. Your method of house-hunting will be different as well because the Real Estate Agencies (Inmobiliarias) are a little discouraging. You will have to practice your Spanish and ask people that you meet in the wonderful city center park, or at the handicrafts market by the taxi stand if they know of houses for sale or rent. The higher prices reflect the ‘California’ flavor of this beautiful little town and the lower population. Shoppers soon discover a wider range of products than you would find in a typical small town.

El Bolson has inexpensive real estate, in a rural, agricultural flavored town. Americans came here in the 70’s and started/joined and strengthened an organic movement. Fruit grown here is excellent and varied (try guindas-a cherry type fruit that makes great jam).

Bolson has a large artist community and the Saturday fairs show off their handicrafts. They seem oddly obsessed with elves and gnomes. Top off every visit to the fair with one of Tom’s waffles complete with jam and crème they are extremely good. (Even worth a trip in the rain). Bolson is too laid back for some people, but a Casino is coming as is a ski resort, civilization is on the way. This town of 30-40 thousand will double in ten years (some say three years). You probably can’t buy a property that doesn’t have a fierce view of the wall of mountains to the west, and in fact the town is surrounded by mountains, thus the Name “El Bolson”-‘the purse’. Go and spend some time and you may find Bolson suits you very well. Houses can be as low as 35000usd with a little land.

So, why is this Paradise? I’ll have to let you know in a few years.

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